An employee incentive scheme that is commonly used works as follows: A company forms a trust. The company funds the trust, and the trust then uses the funds to buy shares in the company. The employees of the company are given units in the trust, usually free of charge. The units entitle the employees to receive distributions from the trust on the underlying shares. The employees forfeit their units in certain circumstances and may generally not dispose of their units. The trust may “repurchase” the units from the employees in certain circumstances.
Authors: Heinrich Louw, Gigi Nyanin and Mark Morgan. On 10 October 2016, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) issued binding private ruling 252 (Ruling) which determines the donations tax and capital gains tax (CGT) consequences of the waiver of a portion of a loan and the reduction of interest on the remaining balance of the loan to 0%. By way of background, debt relief in South Africa has become somewhat of a norm due to the current stressed economic climate. One of the most common means of debt relief by creditors has been the waiver of the whole or part of a debt. For the years of assessment commencing before 1 January 2013, the reduction of debt was subject to income tax, donations tax and/or CGT, which had the result of effectively undermining the economic benefit of the debt relief.
The effective rate of capital gains tax (CGT) has increased dramatically in recent years. When CGT was introduced in South Africa in 2001 the effective rate for companies was 15%. The effective rate is now 22.4%. So, since 2001 the effective rate of CGT for corporates has increased by nearly 50%. In addition, when a company distributes a profit after tax to its shareholders, they pay dividends tax at a rate of 15% (unless the shareholders qualify for an exemption, or a reduced rate).
The question of whether an amount constitutes capital or revenue in a specific instance, is an issue that our courts have grappled with on many occasions. In Commissioner for the South African Revenue Service v Capstone 556 (Pty) Ltd (20844/2014)  ZASCA 2 (9 February 2016), the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) had to deal with this very issue. The SCA had to decide two questions: whether the share sale of the taxpayer, Capstone, of approximately 17.5 million shares in JD Group Ltd (JDG), through which it made a profit of R400 million, constituted revenue or was capital in nature; and whether an indemnity settlement paid by the taxpayer after it had sold the shares, formed part of the base cost of the shares for purposes of capital gains tax (CGT).
The establishment of an offshore discretionary trust (“the Trust”) by a South African tax resident person (“Settlor”) gives rise to various South African tax considerations. In terms of current law (which may or may not be impacted upon by the various proposals set out in the Davis Tax Committee’s First Interim Report on Estate Duty), the following taxes may typically be triggered by the Settlor in respect of the disposal of assets to the Trust in settlement thereof: capital gains tax at a maximum effective rate of approximately 13.65% of the capital gain realised; donations tax at a rate of 20% of the amount or the market value of the assets donated; and any income derived by the Trust in respect of any donation made by the Settlor may be attributed to the Settlor and accordingly subject to South African income tax in his/her hands.
Section 42 of the Income Tax Act of 1962 (the Act) provides for tax roll-over relief in respect of asset-for-share transactions as defined. Such a transaction generally entails the disposal by a person of an asset to a company, and the issue of new shares by that company to the person, as consideration. One of the requirements is that the nature of the asset must be retained. In other words, if the person held the asset as trading stock, the company must acquire it as trading stock, and if the person held it as a capital asset, the company must acquire it as a capital asset. If the person held the asset as a capital asset, the company may acquire it as trading stock if the person (where the person is a company) and the company do not form part of the same group of companies.
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) released Binding Private Ruling, No 206 (the Ruling) on 14 September 2015. The Ruling dealt with the disposal by a share block company of sectional title units to its share block holders. A resident company (Applicant), and a resident trust (Trust), held shares in a resident share block company (Share Block Company). The Share Block Company owned three sectional title units. It was proposed that the Share Block Company would dispose of the sectional title units to the Applicant and the Trust. The Applicant and the Trust would then surrender their share block certificates and rights of use to the Share Block Company. These would then be cancelled.
In the 2015 Budget, the Minister of Finance indicated that paragraph 11(2)(b) of the Eighth Schedule to the Income Tax Act of 1962 (the Act), which deals with the issue of shares by a company, would be reviewed. The Taxation Laws Amendment Bill 2015 specifically addresses paragraph 11(2)(b). The issue of shares by a company (whether for cash, shares or other assets) generally does not constitute a disposal for capital gains tax purposes, although there may be capital gains tax consequences in terms of section 24BA of the Act to the extent that there is a mismatch between the value of the shares issued and the cash or assets received.
Author: Erich Bell, Senior Tax Consultant at BDO South Africa SARS issued a draft interpretation note (DIN) in September 2015 on the tax implications of the assumption of contingent liabilities where a business is sold as a going concern. This article sheds some light on the assumption of contingent liabilities which specifically formed part of the purchase price relating to the acquisition of the business as a going concern.1 A purchaser can settle the purchase price for the acquisition of a business as a going concern by employing a combination of: cash consideration, assuming the seller’s debts, assuming the seller’s contingent liabilities, loan funding, or share issues.
Author: Ruaan van Eeden The 2015 Taxation Laws Amendment Bill (TLAB) proposes an amendment to s35A of the Income Tax Act, No 58 of 1962 (Act), dealing with the withholding of amounts from payments due to non-resident sellers of immovable property situated in South Africa. The proposed amendment raises an interesting point regarding administrative compliance with a country’s tax laws through the submission of returns for assessment versus a final withholding tax.